The Folsom Blues Breakout (FBB) Half Marathon was an inaugural half marathon, using a similar (but not identical) race course to the Lake Natomas Four Bridges Half Marathon but backwards. This race was put on by the Sacramento Running Association (SRA), the same group that puts on the California International Marathon (CIM). They also put on the Four Bridges Half. Apparently, there was a bit of a squabble with the owner of Four Bridges and SRA and he wouldn’t let them run the race. So they did it a little differently.
In a sense, it was a good thing. The Four Bridges race was a loop, and the end was a nasty, nasty uphill climb. Think three or four switchbacks to climb up a steep hill. The new race started near the usual starting point of CIM, and it resulted in a 220 foot descent in 2.5 miles. A screaming downhill run.
The other neat thing about this race was that it was Johnny Cash themed. The race started in view of Folsom Prison, hence Folsom (Prison) Blues Breakout. There were four Johnny Cash tribute bands along the course, plus some guy in a boat playing Johnny Cash music as we ran by Natomas Lake. When this race was announced, I really wanted to do it. I like inaugural races, and I wanted to have a chance to be one of those people that has run a race every year for however many years it has been run.
Also, with the downhill course, I figured it would be a good race to get a personal record (PR). It would be tough because I hadn’t run a half marathon better than an 8 minute mile in over a year. To PR, I would have run faster than 7:30 per mile. Before the race I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t PR because my training hadn’t been going so hot. Struggling to maintain a PR pace for even 4 miles was tough. I think it was because I never do warm up runs before training. I usually need a good ½ mile to mile to get warmed up.
So, race day: The Dashing Sister was going to run as well, so she crashed on our couch and we went to the race start. Well, actually the race finish. The start was 2 miles from the finish. I figured I would use that distance to get in a warm up run. My fastest races have been preceded by at least a good mile run or more before the race. Luckily for Dashing Sister, I missed my turn and I dropped her off at the start. Then I went back to the finish. I walked about a half mile, stretched and ran uphill to the race start.
On the way to the start I noticed that the last 100 yards to the finish was uphill again, and a nasty uphill climb. I figured that with the downhill course, I could be able to climb that last hill. When I got to the start line, the first thing I notice was that the port-o-potties were in front of the starting arch. As in along the course. That was a first.
I found the Dashing Sister and talked with her a little bit before heading to my corral. I looked at the starting arch to take a picture (yes…. a selfie) and noticed that there was nothing on that side of the arch. So, no cool “Folsom Blues Breakout 13.1” sign to show people where I was at. It was on the other side, with the port-o-potties. I guess it was so they could take a good picture of all the runners coming through the arch. The problem with that theory is that the sun was behind the runners, so the photographer would be facing the sun, just as it had risen above the hills. If you have ever taken a picture facing the sun, you know it just doesn’t work.
Then, they are getting the race started. Instead of the National Anthem, they played Johnny Cash’s Ragged Old Flag, which is a good song, but it isn’t the National Anthem. I am not terribly proud of my government, and I am pretty sure that this county is heading down the tubes, but dagnabit I am an American. I love my country, I like my National Anthem, and it should have been played.
Okay, race starts, and it was a typical cluster at the race start. 3000 people trying to run through a 15 foot wide arch. Of course, a bunch of people didn’t line up in their proper coral. It took me about a quarter mile to get up to my goal pace. That isn’t a knock on this race, as it is pretty typical for a race with more than 1000 runners.
The first quarter mile or so was uphill. But as soon as we hit the downhill, I let myself fly down the hill. I did the first 2.6 miles at a 7 min pace, and I would have been faster if I could have gotten up to pace right off the bat instead of dodging people. After that initial downhill bit, we hit the American River Parkway Trail on the north side of Lake Natoma. It was fairly flat but there were some rolling hills, ascents and descents between 20 and 30 feet at a shot.
Typically I take walk breaks at ever water stop, usually no more than a minute. I wasn’t going to do that on this race. I was hoping to not take any breaks, but when I hit the big hill right after the halfway point, I decided to walk it. We had to climb off the trail and up onto the Hazel Blvd Bridge to cross the river, about a 50 feet climb. However, I knew that the bridge was going to be downhill and I could make up some time, which I did – that mile, with the minute of walking, was a 7:30 min/mile.
After the bridge, we turned back toward Folsom and on the south side of Lake Natoma (we actually passed the dam just before Hazel Blvd) the course continued to roll along. It could have been being tired, but it seems more hilly than the other side. By mile 10, my legs were feeling good, I was tired, but not overly so. I had taken two more short walk breaks, less than 30 seconds, and there was only a 5k left to go. I knew I would get a PR, the question was by how much. Up to that point, I had maintained a 7:18 per mile pace.
The final two aid stations were between mile 10.5 and 11.5, which was odd. I am sure it was a logistical issue, but it was still weird to have them that close together. I fought the hills almost to the end. The final ¼ mile was an uphill climb. That first hill, I had to walk the second half, about 15-20 seconds worth. I was beat, but it was only a few hundred more yards. I saw the Mile 13 marker and kicked it into high gear. Just 176 yards to go.
It was all uphill, and there was this girl in front of me. I started yelling at her, “Last 0.1 mile! Final stretch! Let’s do this! Don’t let me pass you!” She didn’t. She kept looking over her shoulder and even though I got the inside corner on the final turn, she was at least two steps in front of me. According to my Garmin, I did the last 0.14 miles (there is always a little extra on the GPS) in 51 seconds (sub 6 min mile) and there was about 6 seconds of Kenyan speed. That’s Kenyan average pace at a marathon speed.
I shouted “PR Baby!!!!” after I crossed the finish line, and got a high five and a thank you from the girl that beat me across the line (I had a faster chip time though, I must have started farther back on the course). I stopped my Garmin, looked at it, and saw that I had come in 2:40 faster than my old PR (actually, I thought it was 1:40, my memory and math had my old PR just over 1:37:00, when it was actually 1:38:00) I went and got some refreshments and my medal. Then I had to tell people about my PR.
The Dashing Wife had to go to Dashing Son’s soccer game. His game was at 10am, just two hours after race start, and probably 20 miles away as the crow flies. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the game, but Dashing Son did run in the kids race, a 1k. He finished in the top 25, which is awesome. I missed it as the kids started at the same time I did. Nonetheless, she wasn’t at the finish waiting for me, nor was she swooning at my speed. Because, the faster you run a half marathon, the longer you last in the bedroom. You know, sleeping off the pain in the legs. Why, what were you thinking? Pervert.
So, I called Dashing Wife, then I called Endorphin Dude. He had given me a digital pep talk on Facebook the night before, which consisted of, “Stop whining, run your damn race, and get your PR.” There were some more insults that followed, but it helped at mile 6 when I told myself I couldn’t keep that pace up. I heard E-Dude’s voice, then I told myself to have positive thoughts, I insulted myself a few times and kept on going.
After I rested up a bit, I decided to go back on the course and find my Dashing Sister, as well as the Dashing Friend (who was running on her anniversary with her husband – they had matching shirts and everything). I walked/ran back along the course, cheering people along. I was telling them about how much farther to go, hopefully giving them a boost to get them to the finish. Apparently I did a lot of that because my voice hurt more than my legs the next morning.
I found Dashing Friend around the second to last aid station at mile 10.5. She was pacing her friend to her first half marathon. She apparently ditched her husband, who was pacing somebody else for the race. Dashing Sister was not far behind her. She had been doing awesome with 14 min miles up until mile 10, when her calves and toes started cramping.
Dashing Sister’s problem was that she didn’t train enough. She works out and does cardio for an hour or so several times a week, but she doesn’t run that much. Nonetheless, she pushed through it, crying most of those last 2.5 miles. Stopping every hundred yards or so to release a cramp. They were bad cramps too, I could see them. She kept at it and she finished before the 3:30:00 cut off time. She had several minutes to spare even off the gun time.
Afterwards we all had lunch together, the Dashing Family, Dashing Sister, Dashing Friend and her (our) friends. It was great.
One thing that did impress me was that the aid stations still had plenty of water and Gatorade when we went through, and for the people that finished nearly 20 minutes after us. There were still medals and food at the finish line too. They had run out of beer, but still had food. In fact, they were handing out bags of oranges and bunches of bananas to people. I could have taken a giant tray of oreo’s, but just took a couple handfuls instead.
While I have some complaints about the race (not really downhill after mile 2.5, no national anthem, and there could have been more information regarding the finish line, and kids race), overall I enjoyed the Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon 2013. Considering that first 2.5 miles being downhill probably reduced my finish time by a solid minute, it was a fast course. But some of the uphill stuff at the end probably cost me 15-30 seconds. I like the course and theme better than the old race, so I hope they keep the race.
What race was your PR at?